In the Shadow of Princes
Sometimes called the Children of Vantu, these Outland dwelling people originate in the lands north of Noirlan, where their tribal assembly has held council since the time before the post-Cataclysmic Restoration. Unlike the typically nomadic Outlander Nations, the Larada are a sedentary people, who sustain their society by not only hunting and gathering but by sophisticated and arcane agricultural techniques that literally convert the poison of their habitat into potable foodstuffs. The Larada do not work around the harshness of their environment; they accept it and assimilate it; the land of their ancestors is part of who they are and they honour it as a gift from their God, Vantu, He of the Hard Heart.
History and Myth
Oral tradition passed down since before the end of the Era of Poisoned Sea and Blackened Sky proclaims the provenance of the Larada people:
And He of the Hard Heart, Vantu, granted Earth’s Edge to the sons of Laamar, saying: O my children of pain and woe! Know my cold stones and blank skies, look upon my broken works. See my face in the darkened waters and hear my heart beat lap against the grey shores. From this place I call you to the struggle against death, the service of life! Turn this hard earth in your hands and know my embrace. This land is my gift to you.
According to the Song of the Wayward Sons, the Larada are descended from an immortal Creator-God known as Vantu, who fashioned the Earth from out of his dreams. After imagining his world of beauty and ideal perfection into being, he fell in love with a human woman called Laamar, whose grace compelled Vantu to descend from his celestial throne and dwell among humanity. Having joined his creations on Earth, Vantu revelled in sharing the joys of mortal life with his beloved. But with the passage of time age and death eventually took Vantu’s mortal lover from him. For to live amongst mortals, Vantu had to give up his celestial “power of making,” and he was thus powerless to stem the wasting age that eventually claimed the life of Laamar.
After her death, Vantu, an immortal broken by mortal grief, ascended to the celestial realm and pondered his loss. He determined that the perfect world he had created was false, its beauty an illusion concealing the reality of pain. From out of his restless celestial slumber the God’s pain manifested in the world in the form of Cataclysm. Pestilence and fire took away the light of the world and left the land, sky, and air poisoned. The once pristine Earth had become scarred, imperfect, a better reflection of Vantu’s newfound understanding of human life and a reflection of his own wounded desire.
Vantu bequeathed the shattered world to his surviving sons, who, touched by the divinity of their father, had survived the Cataclysm and its harsh aftermath. All but one of the sons wickedly resented Vantu’s harsh treatment and refused to accept the changing world. Only Larada, the youngest of the sons, resigned himself to accept the world as it now was and acknowledge the struggle necessary to live in such strife. Larada convinced his brothers of the wisdom of obedience and united his tribe in the ancestral lands which the Larada still occupy to this day. As a reward for their obedience, Vantu sublimated his sons into the celestial realm, where they now reside as deities in the Larada pantheon.
The Larada were one of the few Outlander Nations to openly oppose the Hidden Empire during the Dynasty of the Hidden Hand and many of the people faced persecution and death for resisting the power of the Hidden Emperor’s Steel Legions. Nonetheless, fierce will and geographic isolation allowed the Larada nation to endure the worst injustices of those dark days and survive into the present era a proud, independent and united people.
More recent history has found the Larada eager to avoid conflict with the xenophobic Merikan Union. Thus far Merikan aggression has been directed north of the Larada, against the Mikigani, Mokari, and Ontonda Nations, but the Larada are ever watchful lest the Merikans’s war spreads southward.
The Larada are a disciplined, hardy people. Their survival in the Outlands has always been an unlikely proposition contingent upon collective effort and individual responsibility. Thus they do not believe in excuses for laziness and selfish behaviour and the do not often offer second chances to those who place their own interests before those of the collective.
The Larada respect strength and fortitude of all kinds and honour those who prove worthy in the face of adversity. To succeed against improbable odds is a sign of divine favour and all Larada strive to prove themselves when things look grim.
The Larada have their own language and have achieved literacy through their adaptation of the Latin alphabet in the seventh century PCE. Prior to the use of written chronicles, the stories of the Larada people were told in elaborate pantomimes, which were supplemented by songs explaining the mythic personages of the nation’s founding and survival.
The Larada are a people of intense passions, often quick to anger when provoked but quicker to feel desire or attraction if the mood strikes. They know their worldview, based on the harsh principles of survival and necessity, strikes foreigners as depressing, but the Larada are hardly a society of maudlin lamenters. Rather, the Larada revel in the acts of living that compose their daily lives, the many tasks and chores necessary for the continuation of their way of life. The Larada may acknowledge that life is a struggle, but they love life all the more for its challenges, which give the people an authentic sense of living not felt by the comfortable, the staid and relaxed.
The tribes of the Larada live for the most part as equals. There is no clear demarcation of class beyond the familial hierarchy of birth that governs the power dynamic of individual families. The tribes mingle freely and meet regularly to decide matters that effect the commonwealth of the people.
Women are valued in this society as the daughters of Laamar and are thus accorded a portion of divinity, which is manifested in the reverence the people hold for child bearing. Fertility is often difficult in the Outlands and the Larada consider every child a blessing ensuring the continuance of their nation. The aged matrons of the tribes, beyond the age of child-bearing, are honoured by the people but accorded no special privileges or powers. The patriarchs reserve domestic privilege for themselves alone.
Customs and Ceremonies
The Larada are keen on rites of passage and the recognition cermonies that celebrate them. The epochs of life assist in the realization on the diminishing nature of mortal life, and thus proper observance of these epochs helps guide an individual in his or her personal pursuit of understanding both the nature of life and of God.
Entertainment and Recreation
The people of the Larada are known for their haunting musical prowess and have created incredibly moving songs of love and loss. The Larada tamral is a five stringed instrument resembling a guitar and widely used to express the folk traditions and stoies of the Larada Nation. Most families have at least one member with some musical talent.
The Larada council is an assembly of all adults, both male and female, who vote on public matters by direct, oral democracy. In times of crisis, the Larada unite behind a leader chosen by direct vote, who wields dictatorial power as tribal “Jhetar”. Around 380 PCE, when the Hidden Empire led a direct attack upon the Larada lands, one such emergency Jhetar, known as Voli, ordered the nation to evacuate the ancenstral lands bestowed by Vantu. The act was considered a national catastrophe, but it ensured the survival of the Larada, and, after a 20 year wandering in the wilderness, the people eventually returned to their homelands.
Larada religious beliefs are pantheistic: the OverGod of their Pantheon, Vantu, dwells in all created things, particularly those things that challenge or oppose human ease or comfort. For the Larada, experience of hardship is experience of reality; comfort and leisure are illusory, inauthentic, and offer no knowledge of divine truth. A God of hard lessons, Vantu communes with his followers through the experience of hardship and adversity. The Larada feel closest to Vantu in moments of test and trial and cherish the abject privation of their homelands in the toxic Outland. The Laradan shamans are known for their ability to perform miraculous works of magic through their strong spiritual connection to the ancestral Larada homelands. Rumour has it these “toxic shamans” wield the power to resist the taint of the Outlands and create life in a dead world.
Besides Vantu, the Larada worship twelve lesser gods, the celestial children of Vantu. Each of these celestials corresponds to an aspect of Vantu’s divinity, and clerics and shamans of the Larada often make offerings and prayers to Vantu through the celestial children as go-betweens when the situation demands:
Vantu – High Father, Creator, and Over-God of the Larada pantheon. He directly holds the domains of Fire, Creation, Good, and Purification.
Laamar – Demi-Goddess of Beauty, Love, Magic, and perfect form. As the original lover of Vantu, the Over-God, she is the sublimation of the ideal (and therefore unreal) world that was. As such, the Larada do not make her a significant figure of worship and she is a minor figure in the Larada Pantheon.
Larada – Loyal youngest son of Vantu, he is god of Earth, Protection, Death and Law. He gives his name to the plain in which the Larada people have made their nation.
Kebron – Known as the “Hunter Lord,” this son of Vantu rules the domains of Animals, Chaos, Competition, and Strength.
Havul – Called “World-Tamer,” Havul is believed to be an early chieftain of the Larada of some import. As a significant founder of the Larada nation, Havul was stellified by Vantu and made a lesser deity. His domains include Community, Law, Pact, and Strength.
Ukkazaal- Youngest daughter of Vantu, Ukkazaal is the only child of Vantu not conceived by Laamar. Instead, the myths say Vantu imagined Ukkazaal into being as the very image of his lost Laamar. Through Ukkazaal’s oracles, the memory of Laamar is believed to endure in history and reveal sacred prophecy. She is worshipped as the goddess of Oracles, Beauty, Mind, and Purification.
Mak – One of the daughters of Vantu, Mak is a duplicitous goddess, dedicated to both individual freedom and deceit. She disobeyed her father and fell in love with Kavoth, a deity of the Mikigani pantheon. Their union led to the rise of a new mystic gnostic cult amongst the peoples of the Mississippi coast. For this disobedience, her divinity is no longer worshipped by the Larada, but she is still recongized as a portion of Vantu’s greater godhood as is her lover. Her domains are Knowledge, Trickery, and Liberation.
Kavoth – Once a Mikigani god of wisdom and magic, Kavoth fell in love with Mak, the daughter of Vantu and eventually gained the acceptance of the Over-God and became a lesser member of the Larada pantheon. His gnostic cult introduced the disputed heresy of “Ageless Rokar” to the Mississippi nations. Kavoth’s domains are Magic, Knowledge, and Mysticism.
Habrak – A daughter of Vantu known as the goddess of the mountains and sky. Her domains are Cold, Air, and Weather.
Kuabris – Thought of by some as a brother of Vantu, Kuabris is a god of discord and wrath. He is thought of as a kind of diabolic figure in the Larada pantheon and regarded with disdain by all but an secret minority, who regard Kuabris’s mastery of Destruction, Pestilence, and Madness as dominion over the true nature of human life.